1 Southwestern University Georgetown Texas (UNITED STATES)
2 Southwestern University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 796-803
ISBN: 978-84-613-5538-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
Many undergraduate schools require senior science students to undertake a project in their major area of study which will demonstrate creative or innovative problem solving skills. Unfortunately these projects often involve isolated individuals working on simple projects that result in little sense of accomplishment or enhancement to their curriculum vitae. Faculty also, find supporting these activities less then rewarding.

Development projects in industry involving truly innovative concepts often never reach the market place for any number of reasons. These "orphan" projects wither away, and the technology developed disappears into cabinets and drawers never to be seen again. On occasion, their creators frustrations become overwhelming and they leave the company to create their own start-up company -- and an entreprenure is born!

However for truly abandoned and orphaned projects, the dormant technology can become a fertile resource for the senior science student projects. Expired patents, old science articles, and convention proceedings can provide the link to finding these orphans. A simple phone call asking the question "what ever happened to -----" can open the door to the forgotten treasures.

At Southwestern University in Georgetown Texas, a group of five students saw the opportunity to show their creativity and ingenuity by selecting from industry, an orphan project which was originally intended to develop an instrument to quickly detect bacteria in blood. The technology was developed over thirty years earlier so patents had expired, and current competing technologies did not seem to offer a better solution. Recreating the original development work was made easier working from old design descriptions and test results but many gaps in this information required significant innovations. A potentially intellectually satisfying and exciting project thereby developed. It involved three students in physics, one in chemistry and one in microbiology. One senior assumed the role of project manager. They met for a weekly planning sessions and then worked as a group on the project each Saturday morning for 4 hours. They discovered the discipline of scheduling, purchasing materials, details of electronic design, mechanical tooling and fixturing, material science, wet chemistry, and bacteria culturing and quality control. The cross discipline effort reflected the real world of research and product design.

This seniors project has demonstrated that intellectually satisfying and confidence building projects can be created based on the abandoned technology innovations found throughout industry. Projects can also be selected to offer multi-year, follow-on activities involving second and third year students along with the current seniors.
undergraduate research project, bacteria detection technique.